Splatoon 2: Octo Expansion (Switch)

All inklusive.

A totally new single player story mode for Splatoon 2? Well why not. The single player was, in my opinion, the best bit of the game, and this new expansion doesn’t disappoint.

Taking the form of a Tube-like underground railway, with each station a level, your Octoling character needs to find the Four Things so they can escape back to the surface. Each level is different, testing your skills in varied ways. In one, you might have to navigate platforms with only a limited amount of ink. In another, you might have to push or shoot a giant 8-ball to the exit, avoiding baddies and traps.

Another level plays out almost like Space Invaders, and another has you riding on the top of cars trying to take out foes without them seeing you. Some levels have bosses from the main game, only modified and made significantly harder – that toaster guy? What if he had snipers on his head and ink sprinkers on the sides?

Yet more variations include levels that are timed – shoot all the targets, collect all the items, or splat all the enemies before the clock hits zero. These have very little margin for error too, I found.

It’s incredible that Nintendo have managed to find so many more ideas to put into this mode, having used so many already on both Splatoon games. But then, this is Nintendo, and when Mario Galaxy and 3D World are literally overflowing with ideas, I suppose it’s not that unexpected. It’s worth mentioning how awesome the music is too, with this mode taking on a slightly 80s vibe which also styles some of the graphics.

Octo Expansion is harder than the original Splatoon 2 single player too, although finishing every level isn’t necessary like it is there. I’ve done about two thirds of them, and will probably go back to do the rest at some point. I know some people think I’m nuts for enjoying single player Splatoon more than online, but I implore you to spend some time on both Octo Expansion and the normal single player mode (if you haven’t already) because some of Nintendo’s best game ideas are here and it’d be a massive shame if people missed them.

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon (Switch): COMPLETED!

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Castlevania

Bought, played, completed. In under two hours. But this definitely not Castlevania is supposed to be short, and there’s supposedly more to be had from replays, so I’m not going to complain.

Not that there’s much to complain about anyway – it’s a decent platformer with some great bosses and a character swapping mechanic which (as each one has different skills) allows different ways of tackling rooms and reaching hidden areas and power-ups.

But it’s hard not to see this as a Castlevania game. As well as having the same graphical style as the original NES titles, one of the characters is basically a Belmont, as she wields a whip in just the same way. Another is clearly Alucard. The main character you start off as has a sword like Soma, but looks like Simon Belmont, and there’s a monk who admittedly isn’t much like anyone from that series. Then there’s the levels which try to distance themselves from Castlevania levels but there’s still the castle and although the baddies are different most behave just like Castlevania baddies.

The bosses, however, are very much new. And also very much easier than anything in a Castlevania game, although that’s not negative point – Castlevania bosses can be past the fun side of difficult.

If I’ve heard correctly, Curse of the Moon is a prequel to the full Bloodstained game which is still due to come out. If that is anything like this, then I’m all over it. Hopefully on the Switch!

Fairune Blast (Switch): COMPLETED!

Well this was a bit different. As a reward for completing the three other Fairune games in the collection, this little shoot em up is unlocked.

Taking its cue from the bosses at the end of the first two games, this is a full-on Pop’n TwinBee style vertical shooter, featuring enemies from the main series in formations, and miniature versions of the bosses as, er, bosses.

It’s fun, but very short and easy. I mean, sure, it is only a bonus game but when I started playing I was hoping for more levels and stuff.

Fairune Origin (Switch): COMPLETED!

I’m guessing here, but I think Fairune Origin is the original idea for a game that eventually became Fairune. It’s a very short, similar game with just 12 screens and a few puzzles which are vaguely recognisable as those in the “proper” Fairune.

Your girl is taller and thinner, the baddies don’t seem to require you to level up to beat them, and it’s all over pretty quickly. It definitely feels like a working prototype, and, I suppose, if you see how much improved Fairune 2 is over Fairune 1 then work backwards from 1 to this with the same leap it makes sense.

Not worth paying for, but a nice little bonus.

Fairune 2 (Switch): COMPLETED!

Perhaps the easiest way of describing Fairune 2 is “Fairune only more”. More enemies, more puzzles, more areas, bigger maps, more items, more on-screen, more lore, more everything. It’s a lot longer too, as it took me six and a half hours to complete – compare that to two and a half for the first game.

That all said, it’s pretty much the same idea. Bump into enemies to kill them, find items to open up areas of the map, look out for hidden paths and secrets, and Save Keys to Open Doors. There’s just, as I said, more of it.

I enjoyed it more too. Certainly, I spent even longer wandering the map(s) trying to reach areas I’d not been, but once you’ve levelled up enough there’s very little to kill you while you do this. In each of the three main worlds there’s a ring you can obtain which lets you walk on sand, water or ice, and as a result these create shortcuts and new routes. You even have to return to earlier areas with your new abilities. Metroidvania? Er, sort of. Maybe.

There are some really clever hidden-in-plain-sight puzzles (clue: keep an eye on the map!), and some really nasty hidden-a-bit-too-well areas. You absolutely have to keep your eyes open constantly – pillar or light layouts aren’t necessarily just incidental, they might be the solution to a puzzle. Examine every wall for unusual shadows or markings – it could be a secret path. Floor a slightly different colour or a tree trunk a different shade of grey? Might be a secret!

Great as these “secrets” are, unfortunately they’re not optional. You must find them all in order to progress, and it’s here the game falls down a little – especially in the final world where they’re even less obvious.

Still, Fairune 2 is a lovely little game and an absolute bargain in this collection on the Switch.

Fairune (Switch): COMPLETED!

A few years ago, I picked this up cheaply on the 3DS and quite enjoyed it. This week, Fairune Collection, which included Fairune, it’s sequel, and two other Fairune related games, came out on the Switch. Since I’d passed up on Fairune 2 elsewhere (mainly through Too Many Games) I jumped at the chance. And decided to played the first game again.

It looks a little silly on the Switch screen, with a huge amount of the area showing the map and inventory, but it plays exactly as it did before. Sufficient time had passed since last time I played it that I’d forgotten everything bar the premise (and that I needed to remember a screen had disappearing floor tiles), which probably explains why I still spent a lot time wandering almost aimlessly.

Still, I enjoyed it (again). Time to move onto the next game!

Fire Emblem Warriors (Switch)

It’s widely known (he says, as a nobody on the internet) that I’m a massive fan of Hyrule Warriors. Not really the musou genre generally – just Hyrule Warriors. Such a big fan of it that I’ve put over 300 hours into the game across the four copies that I own. I thought the draw was mainly the characters from the Zelda series, but here’s Fire Emblem Warriors proving that to be nonsense.

On the face of it, Fire Emblem Warriors is a reskin of Hyrule Warriors. This makes sense, as it’s the same team making the same genre of game, but it’s very similar. Sure, the characters are different (although many are similar in how they play) and the levels are new (except most feel very much like remixed old levels), but it’s the same game. Isn’t it?

That’s what I thought. When I completed it I posted about some differences then, but having played for more than 80 hours now I’m thinking they’re even more separated. In fact, I think I might even like this more. Blasphemy, I know. Perhaps it’s the tactics, the directing commanders, the weapon triangle.

In terms of progress, having bought all the DLC, I’ve S-ranked 100% two of the scenarios in History Mode, S-ranked all of the “normal” (that is, non-time-distortion extra) levels in another two, and almost 100% S-ranked two more. I’ve then done almost all the level-70 and below missions in some other scenarios. I think perhaps I’m 75% there?

Certainly it’s a repetitive game, but no two levels are quite the same regardless of how similar they are. And it’s the best game.

West of Loathing (Switch): COMPLETED!

A black and white stick-man role playing game set in a warped version of the Wild West where demon cows attack and there’s goblins, skeletons and necromancy and folks make their fortune mining meat? I mean, it’s a cliche setup for a game already. How could it possibly stand above the hordes of other similar titles?

I jest of course because my god is this one strange, silly game. What with quests where you must find a bowtie, or round up some cultists, or get a lumber permit for a town from another town using the most repetitive (and intentionally so) amount of to-ing and fro-ing you can imagine. All the while facing standard turn-based RPG combat against terribly drawn creatures and bandits (and sometimes inanimate statues) where your array of weapons include a pistol you found in a toilet and a club fashioned from a cactus.

OK, perhaps not so standard.

It’s not weird for the sake of weird either. In the madness of the world it all, pretty much, makes sense. The humour is spot on, poking fun at wild west, RPG and stupid pointless quest tropes. It even sticks itself in the ribs many times. West of Loathing is a genuinely funny game, never forced – except when it is on purpose and it groans with you at the terrible jokes or puns. There’s a lot of text but it’s all worth reading. One-note remarks, jokes that half-hidden or implied, punchlines you see a mile away but occasionally don’t even come because they’re so obvious. Silly stuff, like how every bottle of sarsaparilla you pick up is spelt differently because who the hell spells it correctly the first time?

West of Loathing isn’t all about the chuckles, though. The game is a decent, solid play too. The RPG mechanics are basic but through the class and levelling systems there’s an array of perks and skills you can unlock, upgrade and make use of. I’m not sure this element (although a major part of the game) alone would make it playable, but with the world and humour it is elevated to something approaching genius. Too often “funny games” can be hilarious but terrible to play, or great mechanically but the wit is grating, but West of Loathing manages a balance of both. Even the graphical style – which looks like they’ve barely bothered to even try and draw a game properly – works really well. They’ve even added a colour-blindness option in the settings. For a game 99% in black and white. Amazing.

Rogue Aces (Switch): COMPLETED!

Well, the “Frontline Campaign” completed, at least. I’m not sure the other modes are completable? Anyway, I completed it.

And good grief was it hard. It plays out as a grid of islands, each one like a miniature normal mode, only there are a fixed number of targets to take out. Once you’ve done that, you move onto taking over another island, heading from the bottom left of the map to the top right. As you do so, the enemy head from the top right to the bottom left.

It starts out pretty easy, but once the enemy reaches you, a Baron – a highly powered up fighter plane – seeks you out on the level and really makes it difficult. I found taking him out needed to be top priority.

The final level on the map was utter chaos with many, many retreats due to being almost shot to pieces. Eventually I took everything out and won the war.

Picross S (Switch): COMPLETED!

This reminds me of a puzzle.

It’s hardly innovative, being yet another game in the long line of Picross titles from Jupiter. And after Picross e to Picross e7, as well as a few others, you’d think I’d be fed up of Picross games by now, right? Well, no.

In fact, Picross S is in some ways a step beck from the 3DS games. There’s no Micross mode for a start. It also doesn’t make use of the massive Switch screen to allow huge Picross puzzles – 20×15 is your lot here.

But that doesn’t really matter all that much, as it’s Picross and Picross is great. Besides, there are more puzzles here than in any previous game (although I suspect many are repeats), and I got around 25 hours out of it. Picross S2 now, please.

Although I do have Picross e8 to get now too.

Slime-San (Switch): COMPLETED!

Splatformer

To say this was a Super Meat Boy clone would do it a disservice. It’s certainly a game in the single-screen, hyper-difficult nimble platformer genreĀ like Super Meat Boy, and a cursory glance would have you closely compare the two, but Slime-San is so much more.

Take it’s two additional moves, for starters. One lets you do a dash, in any main direction, on the floor or in the air. You can speed under stuff, over stuff, smash through some stuff, or jump a bit higher or further. The other is a morph, which lets you pass through green obstacles and slow down time a little. Together, your little slime can perform some ridiculous tricks. Perhaps the most game changing of these is being able to jump down, round and up blocks hanging from the ceiling.

It starts off simple: avoid anything red (they’re instant death), pass through anything green, and slime on, along or up anything white. Each level, of which there are 100, is a handful of separate screens most of which add new elements to the formula. Green creatures that carry you, or act as trampolines. Platforms that phase in and out depending whether you’re holding down morph or not. A feather which lets you fly – Flappy Bird style – for a short period. Blocks that disappear when you touch them, blocks that move when you stand on them, ghosts that chase you, things that explode, water you can swim in, locked doors, Donkey Kong Country style barrels, warps, a clone of you that copies your moves (and kills you if it catches up) and many many more.

Not only that, but after a certain amount of time on each screen (instantly on some!), red liquid flows in from one side of the level making it even harder. Just in case it wasn’t tricky enough already.

There are puzzles, pixel perfect platforming, and screens that just make you think “Nope. Not possible.” only for you to complete it after several hundred attempts. Oh, and there are bosses too. Insane bosses. Like the evil Uvula who attacks you with a tongue and teeth – sometimes with lasers.

And did I tell you the whole game is set inside the body of a worm, and there’s a whole city of creatures you can meet and talk to in there? Yeah, it’s bonkers. And brilliant. And I feel like the best gamer ever now I’ve completed it.

If you’re a better gamer than me and your hands aren’t ravaged by the passage of time, then you might get even more milage out of Slime-San by collecting the apples in each level (I didn’t get any that weren’t really easy), or completing each level in under par time. I can’t cope with those, but even without that challenge, it’s still an excellent game. AndĀ better that Super Meat Boy, which I’ve tried many times and just given up on.

Thimbleweed Park (Switch): COMPLETED!

This is a point and click adventure how you superficially remember point and click adventures used to be. It looks like Monkey Island or Day of the Tentacle, but in fact all the fiddly bits of those games have been quietly trimmed off. Moving from location to location has been streamlined. Items have more obvious uses. It’s more accessible, there’s less backtracking (or at least, less annoying backtracking), and there’s a built in hint system for when you get truly stuck.

What is the same, however, is the humour, the fourth wall breaking gags, the clever puzzles and the characters with bags of, well, character. And so many injokes, with references to old Lucasfilm adventures a-plenty. In fact, the mansion in the game may very well be the actual mansion in Maniac Mansion.

The story starts out as a reasonably simple murder mystery, which your two federal agents have to solve. Only it gets weird. Then some more characters are introduced (initially by way of playing as them in flashbacks), and the PillowTron business and related inventions add more mystery.

Then there’s paranormal complications and eventually, well, a late chapter in the game is called Madness for a reason.

I really enjoyed Thimbleweed Park. A few technical issues – mainly tiny, tiny background pixels being vitally important items – marred it a little. I had to use the HintTron 3000 a few times only to find I was doing the right thing but tapping on the wrong pixel, or using the wrong character. It didn’t affect my enjoyment too much though, and the rest was brilliant.

Subsurface Circular (Switch): COMPLETED!

I didn’t even know this game existed, let alone what it was about, until yesterday. Then someone recommended it on Twitter, mentioned it was by Mike Bithell, and I saw it was less than a fiver on the eShop. Of course I bought it.

Subsurface Circular is a visual novel with light puzzling and investigation, manifesting mainly as conversations between you – a robot detective – and other passengers on the robot-only underground railway. In this world the robots, known as Teks, are sentient. Each has a job or role designation, and it’s up to you to question them in order to try and discover why Teks have been mysteriously disappearing. Or have they?

It’s only a couple of hours long and not exactly taxing, but there’s an interesting story and some humour so it’s worth playing.

Axiom Verge (Switch): COMPLETED!

Glitch in the Metroid

Even without reading too much about Axiom Verge, I knew I was going to like it. “It’s like Super Metroid” was enough. The only confusing thing was how it took me so long to actually buy it.

Actually, I think I did buy it ages ago on Steam or something, but like most Steam games, it sits there unloved. Last week it was on offer on the Switch, so I bought it again, and then completed it.

Those people were right – it is like Super Metroid. Certainly, there are different weapons, and the graphics are all smaller, and of course the plot isn’t the same and you’re not a woman in an exosuit. But it’s so very Super Metroid. Similarly themed areas, traditional locked off bits and powers to access them. Hidden rooms. Power ups. Giant bosses.

The main difference is that it’s so very easy. Every one of the bosses is a total walkover – not least because most of them have areas you can stand and not get hit while still damaging them. That doesn’t actually hurt the game at all though, as the main task is exploring and upgrading. The unlockable powers are a joy (especially once you fully upgrade your drone), and the “glitch” mechanic is original and often clever.

Importantly, it’s great, and I can throughly recommend it. Now to try and 100% it!

Vostok Inc (Switch): COMPLETED!

Money Money Money

You know Cookie Clicker or Cow Clicker or Clicker Heroes or that paperclip clicker? Pointless but somehow addictive, right? And you know that little known twin-stick shooter Geometry Wars? Great, yeah? What about those tamagotchi thingies? Lovely.

Now bung them all into the same game. That’s right, the same game. A single game with all these elements in. There’s no way that can work.

But it does. You develop planets in a solar system in classic clicker style: buildings generate money each second, which you use to buy more buildings. More expensive buildings, and upgrades to buildings, generate more money per second. You keep this up, increasing earnings through ever higher powers of ten.

But while doing this, you have to fly from planet to planet to develop each. And you get shot at on the way and oh look – it’s a twin-stick shooter now. Shooting enemies and asteroids provides more money, although it’s the developing planets that really gets you the big cash.

Use some of your money to upgrade your ship’s weapons and abilities, and then take on the boss before expanding your business empire into the next solar system.

Oh yeah, and while you’re whizzing round the galaxy, why not rescue some executives? They inhabit your ship and – providing you keep them fed and entertained virtual pet style – they’ll give you a money generating bonus. They’ll also give you a minigame each to play should you have some time to kill while waiting for money to build up. They play out on a replica LCD screen, and are simplified variations of Flappy Bird, Galaga, R-Type and even Doom. They’re hardly full of depth, but they’re fun (and hard!) little diversions.

Then, before you know it, 20 hours have passed. Oops.